Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: The Bucs rebounded from a debacle with Lovie Smith's best win so far

ATLANTA — Give Lovie Smith this much: His players aren't quitting on him.

Say what you will about his personnel decisions and you are certainly within your rights to question his defensive schemes and that fourth-quarter play call on fourth and 1. But no one can say that his players have given up on him, the team and their commitment to winning.

A week after choking away a 24-point lead in a loss to Washington, the Bucs had every reason to give a half-hearted effort Sunday. A year after getting demolished in Atlanta, the Bucs easily could have turtled and waited for another beating Sunday.

Instead, Lovie's Bucs responded with an impressive 23-20 overtime victory against the Falcons even if they almost blew it.

Just one week after the worst loss of the Smith era in Tampa Bay, the Bucs came back with what may be the best victory of the Smith era in Tampa Bay. Playing in what has been something of a house of horrors for the Bucs, Tampa Bay went into the Georgia Dome and knocked off the 6-1 Falcons.

This doesn't mean the Bucs' problems are solved or that happy days are here again. But if you were thinking the Smith's seat is getting hot, you're wrong.

Typically, when you're looking for reasons to bounce a head coach, the first thing you look at after record is are the players still trying? In fact, sometimes it's considered before one looks at the record.

Is the coach still getting them to show up and play hard?

When the answer is no, the coach is a goner. That's what happened in Miami, both with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and University of Miami coach Al Golden. When you've lost the players, you've lost petty much everything. The only thing left to lose is your job.

You cannot say that about Smith. The Bucs are still going all out. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston is looking more like a seasoned pro every week. Running back Doug Martin is running and running hard. The defense, shredded by Kirk Cousins last week, buckled up their chin straps and, using some well-timed turnovers, did enough to slow Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense.

All of that is an example of the Bucs playing hard, which to be fair, has always been the case under Smith.

The performances haven't always been good. But they've been hard. It doesn't always show up on the scoreboard. In fact, in a season and half, over the span of 23 games, it has shown up with only five victories. But even after tough losses, such as last week's gut-punch at Washington, the Bucs respond with loyal efforts.

The victory was a result of not only a good effort Sunday, but obviously, a good effort put in during the week's preparation that started the moment the team walked off the field last week in the nation's capital.

Smith's future with the Bucs was not decided Sunday. You can bet that there will be plenty of buzzards circling if the Bucs manage to win only four or five games all season. Some want Smith gone no matter what.

Of course, that doesn't mean the Glazers will listen to the boo birds or those disgruntled fans who want Smith out of here. Actually, they shouldn't listen if the Bucs continue to play with the spirit and swagger they played with on Sunday.

As time goes on, we will see more and more if the Bucs are getting better, if their arrow is pointing in the right direction. But this much is clear: the players respect Smith and have not given up on him.

For now, that's more than enough to keep Lovie's job safe.

Oh yeah, victories help, too.

Comments
Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

TAMPA  — With no witnesses and no video evidence, Tampa Police have stopped investigating a case from Christmas Eve that had a truck belonging to Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson found wrecked and abandoned in a mall parking lot with hollow-po...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Brentson Buckner wants more than sacks from Bucs d-line

Brentson Buckner wants more than sacks from Bucs d-line

Much has been made of the Bucs finishing last in the NFL in sacks with just 22 during the 2017 season, but new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner says he measures success in much more than the ultimate goal of a sack."You play 1,300 plays, you hav...
Updated: 9 hours ago
New D-line coach Brentson Buckner wants to make Bucs pass rush great again

New D-line coach Brentson Buckner wants to make Bucs pass rush great again

This isn't the first time Brentson Buckner has wanted to get closer to the Bucs defensive line.As a defensive tackle for the Panthers, Buckner's team went 7-9 in 2002, the inaugural season for the NFC South.Tampa Bay won the division that year, and w...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
New Bucs assistant Brentson Buckner knows challenge of NFC South QBs

New Bucs assistant Brentson Buckner knows challenge of NFC South QBs

New Bucs defensive line coach Brentson Buckner understands full well what a challenge he'll face in trying to bring down three talented quarterbacks in the NFC South this season."Not getting much sleep," Buckner said, asked of his expectations in a d...
Published: 02/21/18
Bucs add ex-USF, Falcons LB Stephen Nicholas to coaching staff

Bucs add ex-USF, Falcons LB Stephen Nicholas to coaching staff

Dirk Koetter has filled out his 2018 coaching staff, hiring former USF and Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas as his new defensive quality control coach.Nicholas, 34, starred for the Bulls and played in Atlanta from 2007-13, much of that under curre...
Published: 02/21/18
Bucs release Doug Martin and Chris Baker, two of their most disappointing players in 2017

Bucs release Doug Martin and Chris Baker, two of their most disappointing players in 2017

TAMPA – Early in his rookie year, Doug Martin was told he was losing his balance because he was dropping his head as he hit the hole in a game at Oakland.He quickly corrected that mistake and wound up rushing for a career-high 251 yards against...
Published: 02/21/18
Bucs release defensive tackle Chris Baker

Bucs release defensive tackle Chris Baker

Hours after they parted ways with running back Doug Martin, the Bucs continued their initial wave of roster cuts Tuesday afternoon, releasing defensive tackle Chris Baker.Baker, 30, lasted only one season with Tampa Bay, managing just a half-sack aft...
Published: 02/20/18
Bucs release two-time Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin

Bucs release two-time Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin

TAMPA — After six up and mostly down seasons, Doug Martin's run with the Bucs is over.The two-time Pro Bowl running back was released by Tampa Bay Tuesday, a move that was expected after he failed to rush for less than 500 yards in four of the ...
Published: 02/20/18
Some big Bucs roster decisions are looming

Some big Bucs roster decisions are looming

The Bucs plan to release running back Doug Martin and defensive tackle Chris Baker sometime before the NFL scouting combine which begins Feb. 27 in Indianapolis.There likely will be more, but they still are undecided on the future of defensive ends R...
Published: 02/20/18
Defensive linemen who could follow Brentson Buckner to Bucs

Defensive linemen who could follow Brentson Buckner to Bucs

Now that the Bucs have announced that Brentson Buckner is their new defensive line coach, could his connections help shape Tampa Bay's search to upgrade their pass rush this offseason?The chance to play for a familiar position coach can be a major fa...
Published: 02/20/18